Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Shhhh! She Just Turned – 6T

Someone just turned 60!  But I promised my young (very young) wife that I wouldn’t say who it was.  Over the years, as other distinguished family members received puzzles, 7T, 8T+, and 9T to commemorate significant milestones, she patiently waited to be bestowed the honor of yet another milestone puzzle.  This year, I developed a 6T puzzle for her - for no specific reason.  As my wife unwrapped her presents for yet another 29th birthday, she was delighted to finally receive her own milestone puzzle.

It may come as a surprise, but the 6T puzzle is comprised of 6 T-shaped pieces that have to be packed within a 3x3x3 box.  The puzzle was 3D printed with each of the Ts in a different color and an open-top silver box with 6T debossed on the side.  Immediately, you know there is some funny business going on if you are required to pack 6 Ts made with 5 cubes (that’s 30 altogether) into a box that can accommodate 27 cubes.  It quickly becomes obvious that the triangular half-cubes of the pieces have to be leveraged to jam those Ts together.

Although practically a kid, my wife has been around puzzles for a long time and knows a thing or two about solving them.  She tackled the puzzle and quickly demonstrated that the experience that comes with youth could be used to solve this puzzle in less than 30 minutes.  She was very happy to discover that this was not one of those intractable designs (avoid celebrating 80!).

I should mention that Dr. Volker Latussek had designed a Six-T-Puzzle that was made by Rombol, but I don’t believe that it is currently being made.  This puzzle was previously mentioned in the post, Puzzle-A-Month Challenge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

A Puzzle to Save the Day - Mighty Pin

Mighty Pin by Alan Lunsford

Once you’ve had a couple of successes, people start to expect it from you.  I’ve never had to worry about that, but after Alan Lunsford’s successful launch of Unsafe Deposit and Bolt Action, he must have been wondering if his latest entry in the series, Mighty Pin, would continue to garner the high praise achieved by its predecessors.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to play with Mighty Pin, not to worry, it’s a worthy successor of the coin cube conundrum series.

Mighty Pin Solved
If you have not been acquainted with Alan’s c3 series, each puzzle is a cube with a coin visible in a window that needs be freed from the cube.  Each requires multiple steps, utilizing tools that become available during the journey.  My favorite part of these puzzles is the engineering that Alan packs within these little cubes.

The Mighty Pin is 3D printed in black with the name debossed in grey.  Similarly, the coin is black with grey debossing with Alan’s logo on the exposed side and a stylized “A” on the flip side.  Of course, the box also has an assortment of mysterious holes to eventually be explored.

The c3 puzzles are more fun than difficult and Mighty Pin continues that trend.  However, it took me a while to discover the second to last move of Mighty Pin.  I danced around the correct move many times until I finally figured out what was required to be rewarded with yet another tool.  It’s so well done (and so unobviously obvious in retrospect).  I accomplished the last move much quicker, but you can’t fully appreciate it until you free the coin to see exactly how it works.  That final “click” is very satisfying as it lets you know that you’ve arrived at your destination.  As I mentioned earlier, the engineering is awesome!

Mighty Pin Card
As with the other puzzles in the series, Mighty Pin comes with a nice card that outlines the goal.  My favorite part was the note: “small taps may be used to loosen misplaced tools”.  This can be loosely translated as: “yeah, you may regret dropping tools in the bottomless dark holes”.  However, I give Alan a lot of credit for coming up with a design that seems to preclude unrecoverable mistakes although I wouldn’t be surprised if some enterprising individual manages to wedge a tool somewhere it’s not supposed to be (force = frustration x time).  {Unrefined comments about mighty pins in dark holes purposely avoided here – you’re welcome.}

Will there be a fourth in the series?  One can only hope.  My guess is that Alan has developed a cache of ideas during the development of this series that may get incorporated into new puzzles in or apart from the series.  

The Mighty A
You can get Mighty Pin and Alan’s other puzzles on his layerbylayerpuzzles Etsy shop.  Since Mighty Pin just came out, you may have to wait for it to be stocked again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Tooling Around With Puzzles - Sequential Discovery Cubic Box

Sequential Discovery Cubic Box by Junichi Yananose
Once again, Pluredro has released a sequential discovery (SD) puzzle that sold out in minutes – 140 in 4 minutes to be exact.  This provides all the background you need to understand that Junichi (Juno) Yananose’s puzzles are well appreciated and coveted.

When the Sequential Discovery Cubic Box (SDCB) arrived, it looked like a nice 3x3x3 burr puzzle made from Fijian Mahogany.  It also comes with a nice Spotted Gum stand.  A little shake dispels that concept and gives you the first hint of other things waiting to be discovered inside.

Since spoilers of any kind are deeply frowned upon for SD puzzles, they can only be described in the vaguest of terms.  So the first move is cool!  I wish that I could say that it was the result of some brilliant thinking on my part, but like a lot of things in my life, it just happened.  But it’s so cool!  At this point you find yourself committed to the journey since there is no obvious immediate way to reset the first move.

The second move reveals that this is indeed an SD puzzle and not a simple 3x3x3 Burr.  Several secreted caches of tools, compartments, and receptacles are revealed.  However, most of it is just a tease, since they all seem to be safely nestled in their beds without an obvious way to release them.

Juno Stamp
Although there are several steps that comprise the solution, you’re never really in danger of not knowing what the next step is.  The path is well defined, mostly linear, and focused more on fun than difficulty.  So how do you know when you’ve completed the journey?  It’s over when you finally find Juno’s stamp – or I should say that this is the beginning of the reset process.  Resetting the puzzle is straight-forward, including the first step, which is especially fun.

I didn’t treat solving the puzzle as a race and took my time enjoying and understanding how each step worked.  Juno employed a lot of nice mechanisms in the design and its worthwhile spending some time to appreciate them.  There was one move that I’m sure has a more elegant procedure than the one that I used.  I searched for an alternative after solving the puzzle but was unable to find one.  Everything else was so well thought out that I’m convinced that I’m missing some subtle nuance of the step.  I’m looking forward to getting confirmation on that step someday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

An Acute Case of Soma Mangling - Halfcut Soma

Halfcut Soma by László Molnár

After seeing all the abused, mangled, and broken Soma variants that came out, László Molnár came to the conclusion that 90/90 is so 2020.  Using his acute sense of puzzle design mastery, he determined that something was wrong with the angles of these variants and decided that they couldn’t be right all the time.  Utilizing the rombic tetrahedra grid of BurrTools, he found a cut that was above the rest and created Halfcut Soma - once again proving the adage that you can still appear sharp even if you’re not right.

Like so many unfortunate Soma cube victims before, the design process commenced with picking on the smallest piece of the group.  The tri-cube was once again targeted and dissected into 6 pieces.  This time however, László cut the 3 cubes at 45 degrees before gluing each triangular half-cube to one of the other 6 pieces.  This could have been the end of it, but László obviously decided that this puzzle would be too easily solved by discriminating Soma puzzle enthusiasts who have been crunching through many variants over recent years.

Halfcut/Fullcut Soma Piece Comparison
Continuing on his 45 degree tangent, László decided to cut all of the pieces’ cubes at 45 degrees and throw half away.  Now each piece was made with only 5 triangular half-cubes.  Of course, now you can’t immediately identify which half-cube was the one that was added.  Each piece looks like it could have been derived from more than one of the original Soma pieces.

The objective of the puzzle remains to fit the pieces into a 3x3x3 space.  Of course, with all those half-cubes thrown out, there are a lot of holes in the resultant cubic space.  László also ensured that there was a single solution to maximize your enjoyment.

Solving the Halfcut Soma is a nice challenge!  Enough information is provided for you to solve it with a logical approach and a little experimentation.  Even so, it takes a while to warp your mind for working with pieces made with triangular segments instead of cubes.  Taking a logical approach is not mandatory and you’re welcome to disregard it and enjoy the puzzle for a longer time.

László Molnár Debossing

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

BBQ With Charcoal

It’s picnic basket season again and Akaki Kuumeri has a couple of new offerings to enjoy?  The new baskets are BBQ Basket and Charcoal Basket.  Shortly after being announced on the Mechanical Puzzles Discord, the models were released on Akaki's Picnic (basket packing puzzle series) Thingiverse page.  I have to say that it’s extremely nice of Akaki to share his designs with the puzzle community as he develops them.  It’s also possible that the new picnic baskets may show up in his AkakiKuumeri Etsy shop at some point.

BBQ Basket

BBQ offers some things that we’ve seen before as well as something new.  I discovered a rotation early on that I thought would be part of the solution but it turned out not to be used.  In fact, it turned out that this rotation occurs easily (and often) requiring you to unrotate (derotate, antirotate, counterrotate – it’s really just another rotate).  Of course, rotating it back is not as easy as the originally unintended rotate.  Once the solution has been found it is easily repeatable.  Akaki has designated the difficulty of this puzzle as medium.

Charcoal Basket

The other basket offering from Akaki is Charcoal.  Prepare to get burned on this one.  I found this one to be much harder than any of the previous baskets (A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets, And The After Dinner Mint – Peppermint Basket).  I was a bit surprised to see on the Thingiverse page that the level of difficulty is  Those are some pretty serious numbers for such a small puzzle.  Akaki’s translation of this difficulty level into English is: Unnecessarily Complicated.

This puzzle does a good job of seeming downright impossible.  However, once you find a configuration for the briquettes (outside the basket), it’s a simple process to verify that it is correct by checking that you can remove the first piece in 9 moves.  Yes, you could consider that a hint being provided by Akaki, but believe me, you will be happy to have received it.  Removing the other pieces doesn’t look remotely possible.

One by one, I managed to figure out how to add/remove the final 3 pieces and accomplish the impossible.  There are some epic moves within this basket that will amaze you.  Little did I realize that I had just completed the easy part.  Unfortunately, knowing how the pieces have to move and actually making them move that way are two completely different things altogether.  Things have to be moved/rotated in places that are mostly out of reach.

I printed the contents of this basket in the same format as all the previous ones – small and tight.  That was a big, Big, BIG mistake!  Don’t do it!  You’ve been warned.  I have fairly thin fingers and really struggled to make the moves.  If your mitts are adorned with large sausages, you don’t stand a chance.

After quite a bit of struggling, I managed to get all the briquettes in the basket.  As nice as the solved basket looked, I didn’t want to leave the pieces in the basket too long, so I tackled the disassembly a couple of hours later.  I was pleasantly surprised (not!) to find that reversing one of the rotations was well-nigh impossible.  I must have spent at least 15 minutes trying to make that rotation.  For a while, I thought that I bricked the basket.  Yes, my basket handle is not glued on and could be pulled off but who would do a thing like that?

Besides getting burned on this one, why is it called charcoal?  I believe that it gets its name from the nice sparkly black filament that Akaki had on hand to print the puzzle.  I felt compelled to also use a sparkly black filament as well, but since I had already used it for the Salmiakki Basket, I used a Hilbert pattern top layer fill to distinguish the pieces.  This gave the briquettes a rougher texture and ironically, a more charcoally look.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Need An SD Fix? CD With The - ResQ

ResQ by Frederic Boucher and Eric Fuller
I’ve been enjoying the Sequential Discovery (SD) puzzles that have recently been released by layerbylayerpuzzles and when Cubicdissection (CD) announced that they would be releasing an SD puzzle, it caught my interest.  This puzzle, of course, is ResQ.  It is based on Visitor Q by Frederic Boucher and extended by Eric Fuller at CD with additional challenges to extend the storyline.

The puzzle arrives in a very recognizable orange box.  In this case, the box had a black bag attached to it.  This bag contained a black towel, a description of the ResQ backstory and goals, and a Reset Guide.

The towel was a nice touch.  Many SD puzzles are susceptible to having small pieces fall out and roll out of sight.  Most puzzle gatherings aren’t complete without someone swearing at pieces rolling across the floor and groups of people on their hands and knees looking under the furniture.  Oh, how I miss the look of horror on their faces.  CD decided to preempt that experience and provide an official towel to work over.

Inside the orange box is another box nicely made from Hawaiian Koa.  It has various square, rectangle, and rounded slots cut out of it.  Inside the box are pieces made from Canxan, Catalox, Bloodwood, and Chakte Viga.  So far, nothing unusual.  It looks like a typical packing problem with the pieces already packed in the box.

The first odd thing of note is the face of an alien with a strange sparkling hair bun on the top of the puzzle.  Apparently, this is a visitor from another dimension and the goal is to rescue the visitor as well as the components of his spaceship from the void (aka the inside of the box).  There is obviously some time/space warping occurring inside the 3x3x3 box since you need to extract a spaceship (made from Paduak and Walnut), two antenna assemblies, a silver fuel disk, a gold reactor orb, and a six-orb navigation AI module.  I was tracking it all until the end.  How could you possible get a six-orb navigation AI module in there?  Well, I was quite surprised when it unexpectedly showed up – on the towel – as if by magic – out of the void – Uh Oh!

ResQ Bottom
I tried to acquire the ResQ version with all the vortex pieces made from Ebony, but failed.  Somebody was looking out for me.  After solving the puzzle, I’m glad that I had the mixed wood version.  Having all the pieces made from the same wood would make it more difficult and not in a good way.  Of course, that’s just my opinion and if I had acquired an Ebony copy, I’m sure that I would be crowing about that version.  I’ll be interested in hearing about the solve experience from the Ebony owners.

It looks like there was at least one design change after the box was made.  There is a feature that did not appear to be used and caused me to hunt around for something that I may have missed or lost.  I guess that you could just call it a space fish on a long wavelength.

The SD aspects of ResQ are very well done and obviously required a fair amount of experimentation to ensure that everything worked as expected.  However, the real challenge is manipulating the vortex to get things where you need them.  Once you have that figured out, everything is much easier.

I can’t stress enough, that everything is so well made that it looks innocent when in reality, it packs a lot of puzzling in a small amount of space.  The Mechanical Puzzles discord had several messages from puzzlers with difficulty finding out how to unlock the vortex at the beginning since it was so well hidden.

I was initially reluctant to look at the reset instructions to put everything back together, especially since it has a ** SPOILER ** warning, but I’m glad that I took a peak and looked at it.  Although it does have some spoiler information that you wouldn’t want to see before salvaging everything from the vortex, it basically provides the initial configuration of the vortex.  Of course, you can store the vortex in another configuration, but I’d bet that the initial configuration is probably designed to require the maximum number of moves to solve.  Don’t be afraid to use the Reset Guide.  In fact, the final goal recommends using the diagram to reset ResQ.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Happy Anniversary! - Another Year of ZenPuzzler

ZenPuzzler Year 2 Group Photo

ZenPuzzler has reached the end of its second year.  I was originally worried that there wouldn’t be anyone reading the blog, but I’ve since received confirmation that, indeed, there are people that have seen the blog.  However, I’m not the least bit discouraged by the requests from designers and craftsmen requesting that I don’t blog about their puzzles.

To wrap up the year, I have created a list of the weekly posts and the puzzles that are mentioned in each.  The name of each post is linked to the entry so that you can easily jump to it by clicking on the name.  Puzzles not included in the photos were either borrowed, gifted, or just plain forgotten on the shelf behind me in plain sight.

28 APR 21 – Board With Puzzles - Trikado

  •     Trikado by Yavus Dimirhan, made by Wood Wonders

21 APR 21 – Like a Dead Skunk in Your Tire Well, Some Things Just Don’t Go Away - Completely Broken Soma, Part 2

  •     Completely Broken Soma by Ken Irvine, bungled by ZenPuzzler

7 APR 21 – And The After Dinner Mint – Peppermint Basket

  •     Peppermint Basket by Akaki Kuumeri, printed by ZenPuzzler
  •     Nachos Basket by William Hu, printed by ZenPuzzler

Wood Wonders Puzzles
Wood Wonders

31 MAR 21 – A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets

  •     Akaki’s Picnic Baskets by Akaki Kuumeri, printed by ZenPuzzler

10 MAR 21 – Terrific Value in a Small Package - Mini TV

  •    Mini TV by Stéphane Chomine, printed by ZenPuzzler

10 FEB 21 – Screwed! - Bolt Action

  •     Bolt Action by Alan Lunsford, made by layerbylayerpuzzles

20 JAN 21 – It's a Feature - Inaccurate Burr

  •     Inaccurate Burr by Junichi Yananose, made by Cubicdissection

13 JAN 21 – Per Aspera Ad Astra - StarTIC 1-4

  •     StarTIC 1-4 by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

6 JAN 21 – Mangling Wood With Style - In Brackets

  •     In Brackets by Sam Cornwell, mangled by ZenPuzzler

Picnic Basket Goodies
Picnic Basket Goodies

30 DEC 20 - Ending With a Beginning - CagedTIC 1

  •     CagedTIC 1 by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

23 DEC 19 - A Christmas Present For You 2! - Ultimate Penultimate Burr Box Set 7 Piece Burr Challenges

  •     Penultimate Burr Box Set by Jack Botermans, Peter Van Delft, Ken Irvine, and Eric Fuller, made by Cubicdissection

16 DEC 20 - Puzzle Purchasing Pandemonium – Cluster & Inelegant Box

  •     Cluster by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders
  •     Inelegant Box by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders

9 DEC 20 - They're Everywhere!  But This One Is Special! - ACorn

  •     ACorn by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

2 DEC 20 - Apparently More Puzzles - ManiAC Shuffle

  •     ManiAC Shuffle by Andrew Crowell, printed by Andrew Crowell

25 NOV 20 - The Gift That Keeps On Giving - The Ottawa Cube

  •     The Ottawa Cube by Ken Irvine, made by Wood Wonders

18 NOV 20 - Hiding Money in Puzzles - Unsafe Deposit

  •     Unsafe Deposit by Alan Lunsford, made by layerbylayerpuzzles

11 NOV 20 - Puzzle Candy - ThreeTIC, TriadTIC, TripleTIC, NeuroTIC, TriumviraTIC

  •     ThreeTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
  •     TriadTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
  •     TripleTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
  •     NeuroTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
  •     TriumviraTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

4 NOV 20 - Not Your Elegant Hoffman Packing Puzzle - Inelegant Fake

  •     Inelegant Fake by Haym Hirsh, made by Wood Wonders

Cubicdissection Puzzles

28 OCT 20 - A Puzzling Tri-Pod - Uri Three Bars

  •     Uri Three Bars by Dario Uri, made by Cubicdissection

21 OCT 20 - Longer Than Expected - BonBon

  •     BonBon by Frederic Boucher, made by Cubicdissection

14 OCT 20 - 15 Steps to Success - Stairs Cube

  •     Stairs Cube by Osanori Yamamoto, made by Wood Wonders

7 OCT 20 - A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy - Fantastic

  •     Fantastic by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

30 SEP 20 - Digging Through Puzzles - Artefacts

  •     Artefacts - Frederic Boucher, made by Cubicdissection

23 SEP 20 - Energetic Puzzling - Reactor Nuclear Packing Puzzle

  •     Reactor Nuclear Packing Puzzle by CoreMods, made by CoreMods

16 SEP 20 - Happy 16th! - Sweet Sixteen

  •     Sweet Sixteen by Jack Krijnen, made by Cubicdissection

9 SEP 20 - Apparently Packing Puzzles - Corner Cube, Edge Cube, Angle Cube

  •     Corner Cube by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
  •     Edge Cube by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles
  •     Angle Cube by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

2 SEP 20 - I Had This Feeling That I Was Going To Like This Puzzle - MystTIC

  •     MysTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles


26 AUG 20 - Don't Give Up - COP OUT 1, 2, 3

  •     COP OUT 1-3 by Alan Lunsford, made by Layerbylayerpuzzles

19 AUG 20 - A Whole New Level of Puzzle Abuse - Completely Broken Soma

  •     Completely Broken Soma by Ken Irvine, abused by ZenPuzzler

12 AUG 20 - Fantastic 20+ Move TIC with an 11 Move Non-TIC Alternate Solution - PatheTIC

  •     PatheTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

5 AUG 20 - A Non-Conventional Puzzle - Geneva

  •     Geneva by William Hu, made by Cubicdissection

29 JUL 20 - Starting With The Seed Of An Idea - Begonia

  •     Begonia by Yavuz Demirhan, made by Cubicdissection

22 JUL 20 - The Bane of All Cubes - Cubane

  •     Cubane by Masumi Ohno, made by Cubicdissection

15 JUL 20 - A Pox On You - Pox Box

  •     Pox Box by Yavuz Demirhan, made by Cubicdissection

8 JUL 20 - Hanging In Suspense - PackTIC V

  •     PackTIC V by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

1 JUL 20 - A Fantastic Puzzle, Believe It or Not - RIPley

  •     RIPley by Andrew Crowell, made by Wood Wonders

Etsy Puzzles

24 JUN 20 - Just Another 6-Piece Burr, Or Is It? - Welded Burr

  •     Welded Burr by William Hu, made by Cubicdissection

17 JUN 20 - A 10,000 Foot View Of - Cockpit

  •     Cockpit by Osinori Yamamoto, made by Wood Wonders

10 JUN 20 - A Meaty Challenge - Ribeye

  •     RIBeye by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

3 JUN 20 - Space, The Final Frontier - MagellanTIC

  •     MagellanTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

27 MAY 20 - Instrumental Techniques in Puzzle Design - Accordian

  •     Accordian by William Hu, made by Cubicdissection

20 MAY 20 - Discretely Exchanging Puzzles - IPP Burr

  •     IPP Burr by Noah Prettyman, made by Cubicdissection

13 MAY 20 - Will This One Really Be Better Than The Others? - SkepTIC

  •     SkepTIC by Andrew Crowell, made by arcWoodPuzzles

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Board With Puzzles - Trikado

Trikado by Yavuz Demirhan

Every once in a while you need to do something different.  This desire drove Brian Menold from Wood Wonders in search of a puzzle to make like Trikado.  Brian is a fan of board burrs and when he found Trikado by Yavuz Demirhan, he couldn’t pass it up.  It looks like a 9-board puzzle, but 3 pairs are actually combined to provide a 6 piece puzzle.

I like how Brian made the boards with two contrasting woods.  Since all the boards have the same 2 toned appearance, nothing of the solution is given away.  This particular copy is made with Canarywood & Mahogany.

Trikado Pieces
I took this puzzle apart last year and occasionally pull it out to solve when I’m on the phone.  After a recent phone conversation, I decided that it was past time to actually solve this puzzle and I spent another hour focusing on putting it back together.  It’s not difficult to determine how the pairs need to be placed with relation to each other.  However, it does take some analysis to determine how the single boards need to be oriented to get everything placed where it can be assembled.  Being a level puzzle, it’s not overly difficult and within the abilities of most puzzlers interested in burrs.  When the puzzle is assembled, there is quite a bit of movement with false moves by the pieces that make discovering the proper disassembly path an interesting challenge as well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Like a Dead Skunk in Your Tire Well, Some Things Just Don’t Go Away - Completely Broken Soma, Part 2

Completely Broken Soma by Ken Irvine
Last summer, I described a wondrous puzzle design dubbed the Completely Broken Soma (A Whole New Level of Puzzle Abuse - Completely Broken Soma).  I ended the post with a request for information on who would be interested in acquiring a copy if it was made available.  With the collection of comments from the post, I approached the cognoscenti of puzzle craftsmanshipdom to prioritize a queue of craftsman interested in the honor of creating this puzzle.  However, not a one indicated the least bit of interest in creating a puzzle that garnered 0 comments in its unveiling post.  I attempted to argue that the lack of response was due to the fact that nobody reads my blog instead of lack of interest in owning a completely broken puzzle.  Unfortunately, I was not unable to convince any of those venerable craftsmen to put their reputation and resources at risk.  On the bright side, there are no readers to be upset by this news.

The smart thing to do is fling the design deep into the pit of eternal stench.  So I bought a 3D printer and attempted to plasticize the design myself.  I went with the 3 color version and created the design files to print the required 54 half-cubes.  The 48mm (1.9”) cube only took a little over 10 hours to print.

Completely Broken Soma Piece Removed
I soon found out that there’s a special place in hell where people can assemble the pieces of the Completely Broken Soma.  The diminutive 8x16x16 mm half-cubes have tiny pimples that need to be popped into the recesses of other half-cubes to connect them.  Forcing these pieces together is a challenge that gets ever more interesting as you add the third and fourth half-cubes while the prior ones get in the way.  However, when you have completed assembling the pieces and then the cube, you are rewarded with a beautiful lumpy cube where the pieces just don’t fit nicely together.  Since the connectors are so small they have a tendency to flex and nice 90 degree joints are not guaranteed (or even likely).

Having suffered a similar fate when creating the wood version, I knew exactly what to do.  I shoved the puzzle in a dehydrator and slowly drove the temperature to just over 130 degrees, the low end of the glass transition temperature for PLA.  I didn’t want to risk going higher and potentially fusing the pieces together.  Shortly after the target temperature was reached, I pulled it out and quickly clamped it for the night.  In the morning, I unclamped a reasonably cubic object and disassembled it to ensure that nothing was unintentionally fused together.  Having finally exorcising that caustic concept from my system, I quickly put it in a box and sent it away to plague someone else.  I really don’t understand why I don’t have friends any more.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

And The After Dinner Mint – Peppermint Basket

Peppermint Basket by Akaki Kuumeri
After completing all those Picnic Baskets that Akaki Kuumeri made, what’s left.  The after dinner mint of course.  Akaki decided to top off the Picnic Basket series with what he called a Final Boss Puzzle.  For those of you who didn’t grow up playing video games like Mario Brothers, the boss character is usually the big bad character that you need to defeat at the end of a level.  The final boss is the toughest, meanest, and most difficult to defeat character at the end of the game.  And Akaki succeeded in developing his final boss picnic basket – Peppermint Basket.

Like the prior 13 picnic baskets (A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets), the Peppermint pieces fit within the same picnic basket.  However, the first thing that you will notice is that the pieces have diagonally cut half cubes.  These cuts allow for some new types of movements/rotations needed to solve the puzzle.  The second thing that you will notice is that there are only 3 pieces and that there is a lot of empty space in the assembly.

This puzzle is reminiscent of Andrew Crowell’s Turning Interlocking Cube (TIC) puzzles where the difficulty is getting the first 2 pieces situated within a frame against their wishes.  I printed the standard version of Peppermint with the tighter tolerances and the rotation required to resolve the positioning of the first 2 pieces is very precise and not easy to discover.  There are also several almost possible rotations, but don’t be tempted to force it.  One of these almost possible rotations is associated with a false assembly.  I’m sure by now that you can tell that I spent a bit of time trying to solve this one.  Getting the last piece in is not difficult, but I liked how the movement worked.

If this is the end of the Picnic Basket series, this was a great final puzzle.  Akaki did an awesome job designing this final challenge and made good use of the diagonally cut cubes.  More final boss puzzles please!

So why did Akaki label Peppermint as Akaki Basket #16 if there were originally 13 picnic basket puzzles?  What happened to 14 and 15?  If I had to guess, one of those is a prior version of Peppermint that Akaki didn’t release because it had an unintended short cut in the solution.  I would guess that the other is:

Nachos Basket by William Hu
Nachos Basket by William Hu.

Puzzle designer extraordinaire, William Hu, took up the challenge to create a picnic basket for the series.  Like Peppermint, Nachos uses diagonally cut half cubes.  With 4 pieces instead of 3, it was a bit more difficult to find the piece assembly, especially since there is a lot of void space in the final assembly.  The empty space and angled cuts also make the puzzle fiddly to play with outside the basket when figuring out the moves required to insert them.  The well thought out movements earn this puzzle its difficult rating although I found it quite a bit easier than Peppermint.  More please!

Model files for printing your own copies of Peppermint and Nachos are freely available with the other Picnic Baskets on Akaki's Picnic (basket packing puzzle series) Thingiverse page.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

A Tisket A Tasket, Puzzles In – Akaki’s Picnic Baskets

Basket puzzles are all the rage now.  As one Mechanical Puzzles Discord (MPD) member put it, These baskets are like the current beanie babies of the puzzling world.  We had Two Burrs in a Basket by Logan Kleinwaks, 4L Basket and 5L Basket designed by Koichi Miura, 3 Mushroom Basket puzzles designed by Andrey Ustjuzhanin, and now an entire series of Picnic Basket puzzles by Akaki Kuumeri.

There were originally 10 puzzles in the Picnic Basket series and Akaki offered them for sale on his AkakiKuumeri Etsy Shop.  At the same time, he also kindly made the model files freely available on Thingiverse (Akaki's Picnic (basket packing puzzle series)).  Since then he has added 3 more designs and at least 1 more is currently under development.

The picnic basket puzzle descriptions below are in the order that I printed and solved them.  With almost 3 hours required to print each, there is plenty of time to solve each before the next one is ready.  I printed them directly from the Thingiverse STL files and the fit is perfect.  If you turn the basket upside-down the pieces won’t drop until you lightly tap the basket.  Each model also has a looser fitting option if you find that the pieces are coming out too tight on your 3D printer.  The difficulty levels indicated are those provided by Akaki on Thingiverse or Etsy.

Egg Basket – Akaki Basket #6, Medium.

Of course, before printing the first set of pieces, I needed to print the basket.  I have to say that the fancier basket model is very well done and imparts a huge cuteness factor to the series.  Many members of the MPD proudly display pictures of their printed baskets.  Egg Basket consists of 4 pieces that have to be placed in the basket.  I found it to be easy, but it is a good introduction of how the pieces can be manipulated and inserted into the basket.  The 3 rotational moves are staples for the entire series.

Wine Basket – Akaki Basket #2, Difficult.

Wine Basket seems to be a favorite on the MDP and for good reason.  It’s a bit more of a challenge than Egg and makes great use of the handle to trap pieces.  I particularly liked the piece that consisted to 2 connected 2x2 blocks.  It interacts nicely with the basket and other pieces. This puzzle itself is worth printing out the basket along with the Wine pieces even if for some reason there was something wrong with you and you weren’t interested in the entire series.

Sandwich Basket – Akaki Basket #10, Difficult.

Sandwich is a nice example of how pieces have to work with each other.  I didn’t find it that difficult, but it was a nice solve.  The reason I started with Egg, Wine, and Sandwich was the Cubicdissection announcement that these 3 puzzles will be made as a set and included in an upcoming release.  Eric Fuller also indicated on the MPD that the basket for the CD release would be compatible with the puzzle pieces from Akaki’s Etsy shop.  A very nice gesture for those who will want to acquire additional pieces to enlarge the set.  Of course, it would be even nicer to acquire the remaining sets of pieces in different exotic woods.  After having done the entire series, I agree that these 3 make a nice set although I may have been tempted to swap out Egg for one of the more difficult ones, but that’s just my preference.

Subway Basket – Akaki Basket #5, Difficult.

Unfortunately, I chose to do Subway after Sandwich.  Please avoid doing that.  They are similar and use the same solving method.  The only real difference is that Subway combines 2 of the pieces to make it a 3 piece puzzle.  There is certainly nothing wrong with it, but it was a quick solve for me right after Sandwich.

Coffee Basket – Akaki Basket #9, Medium.

As a medium puzzle, Coffee Basket is pretty straight-forward.  Nothing really difficult and I didn’t find it as interesting as Egg.  I should mention that I only printed one basket and have been swapping the pieces in and out so there is no real need to skip any of these puzzles when it takes less than 3 hours to print each.  Akaki also provides the option on his Etsy site to buy each puzzle with or without the basket.

Hamburger Basket – Akaki Basket #13, Medium.

Luckily, I had a number of filament colors so that I could print each puzzle in a different color.  Unfortunately, I ended up with some odd things like blue hamburgers.  Hamburger Basket is one of the 3 puzzles added after the first set of 10 on Thingiverse.  Personally, with only 3 pieces and some obvious piece positions, I thought this one was easy.   However, I should add that Hamburger Basket is a favorite on the MPD.

Fruit Basket – Akaki Basket #4, Easy.

When I mentioned to my Non-Puzzling Significant Other (NPSO), a full-fledged member of the Spouses of Addicted Puzzlers (SOAP) club, that I was only planning to make the difficult and medium puzzles, she said WAIT A MINUTE!.  Witness the power of the cuteness factor!  So I had to change my plan and not only make them all, but print one of the easy ones next.  Enter Fruit Basket.  Not expecting much, I set about putting the pieces in the basket and didn’t find it as easy as some of the more difficult puzzles.  It also added another movement in the basket solving arsenal.  I decided that this one was a bit underrated or at least no simpler than some of the medium level puzzles and decided not to offer it as a starting point for my innocent NPSO.

Chicken Basket  – Akaki Basket #12, Medium.

Chicken is not that difficult and expands on the new move from Fruit Basket.  It also has one more trick up its sleeve to make it interesting.  Just when it looks like it would be trivial, the pieces conspire to get in each other’s way and require you to figure out some additional steps to stuff that chicken in the basket.

Chocolate Basket – Akaki Basket #1, Difficult.

Chocolate Basket is a great design.  The only problem that I had with it is that by this time I was familiar with all the moves required and it was a quick solve.

Salmiakki Basket – Akaki Basket #11, Medium.  

Before now, I’d never heard of Salmiakki.  I assumed that it was some sort of Japanese sushi dish but it turns out that it is a licorice made with salmiak salt.  Who knew?    I found Salmiakki Basket to be tricky and it had me going in circles for a bit.  Just when you think there couldn’t be something new.

Cake Basket – Akaki Basket #8, Easy.

As the name implies, this one was cake and lived up to its rating.  You could easily skip this one.  However, if you are like me and only printed a single basket for all the puzzles, it’s not really a big deal to print out the pieces for a particular puzzle.  On the MPD there are puzzlers in both camps with some printing a basket for each puzzle or like me a single basket for all the puzzles.  There are some that have even printed out a scaled up copy of the basket to hold the pieces for all the puzzles when not in the official basket.

Ice Cream Basket – Akaki Basket #7, Easy.

Ice Cream is definitely easy and a nice follow-on to cake.  It even introduces a new type of move, which is impressive considering that it was the twelfth one that I’ve done.  The variety of different types of movements is surprising.  Akaki mentioned that his design process consisted of developing a piece with interesting movements/rotations and then subtracting that piece from the cube space to then be further cut up into other interesting pieces.  Of course, given the interaction among the pieces, this description is a very simplistic summary of a more intricate process.

Vegetable Basket – Akaki Basket #3, Easy.

And then there was Vegetable Basket.  I found this easy puzzle to be the most difficult of the bunch.  I’m embarrassed to say that I spent more than an hour trying to solve this one.  Although the move count is not high, there are multiple cube assemblies that can be made with the four pieces requiring you to find the correct one as well as put it in the basket.  I kept doing the same things over and over and ending up with the same assemblies that I couldn’t convince myself would go in the basket.  It was insane and I was becoming so myself.  I was pondering a new name like Basket Case for this puzzle.  Thanks to my NPSO for not letting me miss out on the frustration.  For an easy puzzle, I highly recommend this one.

In general, I found the easy puzzles to be a mixed bag with 2 easier than the medium puzzles and 2 harder than the medium puzzles.  The 2 harder ones were so under constrained that they were more difficult to solve.  Unlike some of the difficult ones that were so constrained that they were easy to solve.  I’d certainly be interested in hearing about other people’s experiences with these puzzles in the comments.

Akaki has mentioned on the MPD that he is working on an even more difficult “Boss” puzzle (codename: Peppermint Basket) to cap the series.  Of course, the MPD members have indicated that they don’t want to see the series capped, but continually expanded beyond the “Boss” puzzle.  Other well-known puzzle designers on the MPD, like William Hu, are also considering contributing to the series (codename: Nachos Basket).  I’m looking forward to seeing how this series evolves, especially after seeing some photos involving angled half-cubes.

Finally, a big thank you to Akaki for making the Picnic Basket models available to the puzzle community!

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Terrific Value in a Small Package - Mini TV

When I saw that the mad puzzler, Mr. S., wrote a post on the hefty looking 6T Burr puzzle by Alfons Eyckmans (Alfons Proves I'm Improving...), puzzle envy set in and I was looking forward to trying that level 22 puzzle someday.  As soon as I resigned myself to a long wait, the puzzlewillbeplayed site added a new level 18 puzzle by Stéphane Chomine with a similar format called Mini TV.  The size was reduced by quite a bit compared to Alfons’ 6T Burr and I decided to print a copy to play with.

Mini TV consists of a frame with 2 core pieces that run through its center and 6 mini transverse pieces that slide along the outside and impede the movement of the 2 core pieces.  I originally looked at using a 13 mm voxel size but the print time was much too long.  Changing to a 10 mm voxel dropped the print time to a mere 13 hours.

The puzzle is very approachable and not too difficult to solve.  Of course, since it was printed, it was an assembly challenge.  It takes a lot less time to solve than to print.  It took about an hour to assemble the puzzle.

Assembling the puzzle follows a series of logical steps and some experimentation.  One of the 6 transverse pieces provides a significant clue on how the core pieces need to be oriented with respect to each other.  This in turn identifies how the 2 middle transverse pieces need to be placed.  The remaining 3 pieces then provide the final clues as to the exact orientation of the 2 core pieces.  Then it’s just a matter of putting the core pieces within the frame and adding the transverse pieces one at a time until it’s all assembled.  Of course adding the first few is trivial (one is just decoration) while the last basically requires going through the complete disassembly to get to a point where it can be added.

The assembled puzzle is very attractive and like the assembly is very approachable as a disassembly challenge.  The only issue that I had with the design is that the transverse pieces have a tendency to rotate out from the puzzle when they are moved from their initial position.  You have to constantly ensure that they stay within the frame to avoid rotational shortcuts while solving.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Screwed! - Bolt Action

My break from blogging has been rather rudely interrupted with the arrival of Alan Lunsford’s new sequential discovery puzzle, Bolt Action.  It is reminiscent of Alan’s prior sequential discovery puzzle, Unsafe Deposit (Hiding Money in Puzzles - Unsafe Deposit).  Like Unsafe Deposit, Bolt Action is a cube with a US quarter peeking out a window, various holes and slots in the cube, and a bolt screwed into one of the sides.  The new cube is gray with the name of the puzzle embossed in Black.  In one of the square openings, you can see the end of a long bolt wobbling about, but it’s secured on the other end.

Being in the US, I received the puzzle with a quarter inside instead of one of Alan’s own printed coins.  For worldwide distribution outside the US, Alan decided to print his own currency.  As of this writing, the Lunsford is worth about 25 US cents.

The puzzle arrives with a card specifying the goal to remove the coin and find a reason to smile.  What does that mean?  Doesn’t everyone smile when the coin is released?  All I can say is that you will know when you are not done and then when you are.  

After seeing various comments about Bolt Action, I expected it to be a similar experience to Unsafe Deposit.  I expected to knock this one out quickly and decided to keep track of the solve time since Unsafe Deposit was so quick.  

After 20 minutes, I hadn’t gotten anywhere.  I knew exactly how the quarter would be released, but I didn’t have the tools to accomplish it.  Another 20 didn’t give me anything more.  I was pretty sure that I had done just about everything that one could do to this cube and still hadn’t made any progress.  To be honest, after 40 minutes, I was pushing the “No excessive force” rule since I was out of other options.  Tap, tap, tap, spin, spin, band, Bang, BANG!

After an hour, I had to step back and reevaluate the situation.  My options were: 1) I got really lucky on all of Alan’s previous SD puzzles and was now faced with having to really solve one the right way, 2) My mental facilities have started to decay during the quarantine, 3) Something was wrong with the puzzle.  Although all three were just as probable, I opted to pursue #3.  Just after the hour mark, I went out into the garage to look for the box that BA came in.  I shook it and was rewarded with something rattling in the box.  Sure enough, there was a bolt sitting on the bottom under the filler paper.

During that first hour, that empty space that I kept opening (many times), attempting to discern its purpose, was for the missing bolt.  Armed with the missing bolt, the coin was removed and the reason to smile was discovered in 5 minutes.

Am I bothered by the fact that I spent an hour trying to solve an unsolvable cube?  Not really.  I enjoyed spending time thinking about how the puzzle worked.  It’s clever and very well made.  And yes, it’s very much on the order of difficulty as Unsafe Deposit.  You can get your own copy of Bolt Action on Alan Lunsford’s layerbylayerpuzzles Etsy shop.

This was just another reminder to carefully unbox puzzles that you receive in the mail.  There are many sad stories from puzzlers that inadvertently threw away a puzzle piece or extra puzzle.  This first happened to me when I accidentally threw out the chicken poop from Eric many years ago now (This Puzzles No Turkey - It's Chicken).